The Lion's Bride

Before you read the story

  • Have you ever been in great danger?
  • Who did you ask to help you?
  • If your parents do not help you, where can you go?

Now read the story

Part One: The Lion's Wedding

Fatuma was waiting for her bridegroom.

"Is he handsome? Is he clever?" she asked her mother.

"You will see," her mother answered. "He is coming with your dowry today."

Not far away, Fatuma's bridegroom was driving the dowry cows over the river. Suddenly, a lion jumped out of the bushes. It caught one of the dowry cows and killed it. The bridegroom did not see the lion, but he heard the noise.

"Who is there?" he called out. "Who has killed my cow?"

"I killed it," said the lion, "and I'm a better man than you are."

He came out of the bushes, and the bridegroom saw him.

"What?" said the bridegroom. "You think you are a man? I'll show you!"

He jumped on the lion and they began to fight. Soon the lion was on the ground, and the bridegroom was on top of him. 

"You see?" said the bridegroom. "You are not better than me. I am much stronger than you."

"That's not true," said the lion. "You are only strong because you have a right hand. Tie your right hand behind your back and fight with me again."

The bridegroom agreed and the lion tied his right hand behind his back. They fought again. Again, the lion fell to the ground, and the bridegroom was on top of him.

"Now what do you say?" said the bridegroom. "Who is the strongest? You or me?"

"Oh, I am the strongest," said the lion. "You won because you have a left hand. Tie your left hand behind your back and fight with me again."

So the lion tied the bridegroom's left hand behind his back. Now the bridegroom was helpless. He couldn't fight at all. At once, the lion killed him and ate him. 

Then the lion put on the bridegroom's clothes and he began to drive the cows to Fatuma's village.

Everyone in the village ran out to greet the bridegroom. They clapped and shouted and sang a wedding song:

"The bridegroom comes
Take him inside!
He brings the dowry
For the bride!"

They greeted the lion and took him inside the house. He sat down with them, and they brought him food. The first dish was boiled meat.

"Take it away," the lion said. "I can't eat boiled meat."

Fatuma's family took the meat away. They fried it and brought it back.

"I can't eat this," said the lion.

Fatuma's father was surprised. 

"What do you like to eat?" he asked.

"Bring me raw meat," answered the lion. "Don't cook it at all."

So Fatuma's father gave the lion some raw meat and he ate it.

When the feast was finished, it was time to go to bed. Fatuma's family took the lion and his bride to their hut.

"I can't sleep on this bed!" the lion said.

"Why?" asked Fatuma's father. "What kind of bed do you want?"

"I sleep on sticks and straw," said the lion.

So they took the bed away, and brought him sticks and straw. Now Fatuma and the lion were alone together. The lion took off his clothes, and Fatuma saw his fur. She was very frightened.

"Oh! Oh! You're a lion! You're not a man at all!" she shouted. Then she called out:

"Father, Mother
Help your child!
My husband's a lion,
Hungry and wild!"

She ran off to her parents' hut. The lion followed her quietly. Fatuma didn't see him.

Fatuma called out to her father and mother.

"What is it, Fatuma?" her father said. "Are you sick?"

"No, Father," said Fatuma, "but you must help me. My husband is not a man. He's a lion! You have given your daughter to a wild animal!"

"That's impossible," her father said.

"No, no, it's true," said Fatuma. "His teeth are long, and his body is covered with fur."

"We will test him, then," said her father. "Tomorrow morning the village will move. We are going to find water and grass for the cattle. The men will come out of their huts and shout, 'The time to move has come!' If your husband is a lion, he will not shout. And if he does not shout, I will believe you."

The lion was listening. He heard Fatuma's father's words. Quietly, he ran back to his hut.

"Now go back to your husband," Fatuma's father went on. "Do you want us to be ashamed?"

Sadly, Fatuma went back to the lion.

The next morning, the lion woke up very early. He ran outside his hut and roared:

"Why is the village still asleep?

When will the people begin to wake?

The time to move has come!"

Fatuma's father heard his voice.

"My daughter is a fool," he thought. "Her husband is not an animal. He is a man."


Exercises for Part One: The Lion's Wedding


Part Two: Fatuma Runs Away

 Everyone in the village was preparing to move. They were packing their huts and loading their camels.

The lion went to Fatuma's father.

"We must leave you now," he said. "We will not come with you. I want to take my wife to my relatives."

The family all agreed.

"That's good. That's right," they said. "You must take her to your own family."

So Fatuma and the lion left the village. They began to travel alone.

"You, girl," the lion said. "One of us can ride on the camel. The other one must lead it. Do you want to ride on the camel, or lead it?"

"I will lead it," Fatuma answered. "If you are tired, you can ride."

So the lion climbed up on to the camel and they began their journey. But the lion was hungry. He bit the camel's hump and ate a piece of it.

"Aah!" shouted the camel.

Fatuma turned round.

"What's the matter with the camel?" she said.

"He doesn't like your black scarf," said the lion. "It frightens him. Take it off and throw it away."

So Fatuma took off her scarf and threw it away.

They went on a little further, but the lion was still hungry. He bit the camel's hump again.

"Aaarh!" shouted the camel.

"What's wrong now?" asked Fatuma.

"Your bracelets and your necklace are making a noise," answered the lion. "The camel doesn't like it. Take them off and throw them away."

So Fatuma took off her bracelets and her necklace and threw them away.

They went on quietly for a while, but then the lion bit the camel's hump again.

"Harrumph! Haraah!" the camel shouted.

"Now what is it?" asked Fatuma.

"He doesn't like your dress," said the lion. "Take it off and throw it away."

So Fatuma took off her dress and threw it away. Now she was like the animals. She had no clothes on at all.

At last, they came to a wild, empty place. There was no village here, no people and no cattle.

"This place is good," said the lion. "We will stop here."

So Fatuma unpacked the camel and put up her hut.

"Stay here," the lion said. "I will go and look for my relatives, and I will bring food for us to eat. Listen for me carefully. If you hear, gogobuk, gogobuk I will have camels with me. If you hear chachaka, chachaka I will have goats. If you hear chump, chump I will have cows."

The lion went away. Now Fatuma was alone.

"My husband is not a man," she thought. "He is a wild animal, and his friends and relatives are animals too. Perhaps he will bring them back here with him, and they will eat me. What can I do? I can't go back to my family. They will not believe me, and they will be ashamed. No, I must run away."

She took out a knife and cut off her little finger. She put it in the mortar. Then she went out of her hut and began to run.

She ran, and ran, and ran.

At last, she came to a big lake. There was a tree in the middle of the lake. It was dead, but its branches were still strong.

"I will be safe in that tree," thought Fatuma, "but how can I climb it?"

She looked everywhere on the ground. At last, she found a rope. She picked the rope up, and with its help she crossed the water and climbed the tree.

The lion called all his friends, the leopard, the snake, the hyena, the baboon and the rat. They came with him to his house. But the hut was empty. The door was shut.

"Fatuma! Fatuma!" called the lion.

No one answered. No one was there.

The lion was very angry. He broke the door of the hut and ran inside.

Fatuma's little finger was in the mortar.

"Fatuma is not here! She has ran away!" the little finger shouted.

The lion pushed the mortar over. Then he picked the finger up, and ate it.

"Where is she? Where is my wife?" he roared.

The snake, the leopard, the hyena and the baboon shook their heads.

"We haven't seen her. We don't know," they said.

But the rat looked up at the lion and said, "I saw a girl. Perhaps she was your wife. She was running to the lake. She was climbing the big dead tree."

"What lake? What tree?" said the lion. "Show it to us, rat."

So the rat ran to the lake and all the animals followed him. They stood at the edge of the water and looked up into the tree.

Fatuma was there.

The lion was very, very angry. He was ashamed in front of all his friends.

"You, wife! Come down from that tree!" he roared.

"No," answered Fatuma. "I will not."

The lion changed his voice. He tried to make it kind and loving.

"Dear wife, dear Fatuma," he said. "Please come down. My friends want to greet you."

Fatuma looked at the lion. His voice was soft now, but his eyes were wild.

"No," she said again. "I will not come down to you. You must come up here to me."

"How can we do that?" said the lion. "How can we cross the water and climb the tree?"

"I have a rope," said Fatuma. "I will throw one end down. Hold the rope, and I will pull you up. Now, who will come first?"

"I am your husband," said the lion. "I will come first."

So the lion took the rope and Fatuma began to pull it. She pulled and she pulled. Now the lion was half way up the tree.

Then Fatuma took out her knife, and cut the rope. The lion fell, with a big splash, into the water. He died at once.

"Who wants to come up now?" said Fatuma.

The other animals looked at each other.

"She is our sister-in-law, the wife of our brother," they said. "She will not cut the rope for us."

They took the rope and Fatuma began to pull it. She pulled and she pulled. Now all the animals were half way up the tree.

Then Fatuma took her knife and cut the rope again. All the animals fell, with a splash, into the water. They all died.

"I am alone again," thought Fatuma. "I am safe, but there is no one to help me."

She began to cry.


Exercises for Part Two: Fatuma Runs Away


Part Three: Fatuma and the Bird

Suddenly, she heard a noise. She looked up. A little bird was sitting on a branch beside her. 

"Please, girl," said the bird. "My wing is broken and I'm very hungry. Give me a date from your tree.

"Yes, little bird," said Fatuma. "I will give you a date from my tree. But then, please, do something for me."

"What can I do?" said the bird.

"Fly to my village," said Fatuma. "Take a message to my father and mother.""What is your message?" asked the bird.

Fatuma said,

"I'm hungry, I'm cold,
I'm alone in the tree.
Oh Father, Oh Mother,
Please come to me!"

"My wing is broken," answered the bird, "but I'm sorry for you, dear Fatuma. I will fly to your father and mother and give them your message."

So Fatuma gave the bird a date. He ate it, and rested. Soon, he felt stronger. He flew away to Fatuma's village.

Fatuma's mother was making butter. She was shaking the milk in her butter churn. The bird sat on the roof of her house and called to her.

"Woman, what are you doing? Why are you shaking your butter churn? Your daughter, Fatuma, needs your help. Can't you hear her crying?"

"What?" said Fatuma's mother. "You stupid bird, what do you mean?"

"Your daughter is on the old dead tree in the lake," the bird told her. "She's calling out to you,

'I'm hungry, I'm cold,
I'm alone in the tree.
Oh Father, oh Mother,
Please come to me!’”

"I don't believe you. It's impossible," said Fatuma's mother, and she went on churning butter.

The bird was angry. He sang,

"I'm a poor little bird with only one wing,
I can't fly fast, but I can sing!
Wicked woman, leave your butter.
Go to the lake, and help your daughter!"

But Fatuma's mother did not listen to the bird.

"Be quiet," she said. "Go away."

Then the bird went to Fatuma's father. He was sewing a pair of shoes.

The bird sat down on the branch of a tree and called to him, "Old man, what are you doing? Why are you sewing shoes? Your daughter, Fatuma, needs your help. Can't you hear her crying?"

"What?" said Fatuma's father. "You stupid bird, what do you mean?"

"Your daughter is on the old dead tree in the lake," the bird told her. "She's calling out to you,

'I'm hungry, I'm cold,
I'm alone in the tree.
Oh Father, oh Mother,
Please come to me!’”

But Fatuma's father did not listen to the bird.

"I don't believe you. It's impossible," he said, and he went on sewing shoes.

The bird was angry. He sang,

"I'm a poor little bird with only one wing,
I can't fly fast, but I can sing!
Wicked father, don't refuse
To help your daugher. Leave your shoes!'"

But Fatuma's father did not listen to the bird.

"Fly away, bird," he said. "Leave me alone."

So Fatuma stayed in the tree, and the little bird brought food to her every day.

Now one day, a prince was passing by. His shepherd went in front of him. He was looking for good grass for the prince's cows and sheep. 


The shepherd was deaf and dumb. He could not hear and he could not speak. He came to the edge of the lake, and he looked up, and saw Fatuma in the tree.

The prince rode near the lake on his horse. The shepherd ran up to him.

"Mmmm! Mmmm!" he said.

"What is it, shepherd? What do you want?" asked the prince.

The shepherd could not say. He took the bridle of the prince's horse and began to lead him to the lake. They stopped at the water's edge. The prince looked up and saw Fatuma. At once, he fell in love with her.

"Beautiful girl, how did you climb this tree?" he called up to her. "Let me come up to you! I want to marry you!"

"Wait," said Fatuma. "First I must test you. I will spit. If my spit reaches you, and if it changes to gold, I will marry you."

So Fatuma spat at the prince, and her spit reached him, and changed to gold.

Then Fatuma climbed down from the tree, and she married the prince, and she went to live with him in his palace.

The years passed, and Fatuma's mother and father became very poor. Now they had no cows and camels, no sheep and goats. They were hungry. They had nothing to eat.

"We must go to the prince's palace," they said, "and beg for food."

So they went to the palace.

"Help us, for God's sake!" they cried. "We are dying of hunger! Give us something to eat!"

Fatuma heard their voices.

"Is that my father? Can it be my mother?" she thought.

She went out to see them. At once, she recognised them.

"Give these people food," she said to her servants. "Give them clothes and shoes."

So Fatuma saved her parents, and she lived happily with her prince for the rest of her life. 


Exercises for Part Three: Fatuma and the Bird


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